Question Tim Social Sciences

Intensive Interaction

Can intensive Interaction improve behaviour in an adult with autism?

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Answer Internal Staff

Intensive Interaction is a therapeutic technique which was developed by staff at Harperbury hospital in the 1980s in order to assist individuals with severe or complex learning difficulties. It is based on the premise that many such individuals can benefit from the type of fundamental social and communicative learning that babies undergo during the first year of life. During this process, the therapist is responsive to the learner's behaviours, joining in with them in a playful and non-threatening way. This can involve touch, verbalisation, eye contact and other forms of body language. These interactions are naturalistic and largely learner-led, which helps to ensure that the process is enjoyable and motivational for the learner. The intention is to teach basic pre-verbal skills such as giving attention, taking turns, using eye contact and facial expressions as well as learning to enjoy the company of another person.

A qualitative study by Nind (1996) found that Intensive Interaction techniques improved the sociability and informal communications skills of learners, as well as reducing stereotyped and ritualistic behaviours. A review on the research into the effectiveness of Intensive Interaction in improving challenging behaviour also found that it could be beneficial, on the proviso that staff were properly trained to use the technique (Sharma & Firth, 2012).


Nind, M. (1996) 'Efficacy of Intensive Interaction', European Journal of Special Needs Education, 11(1), 48-66.

Sharma, V. and Firth, G. (2012) 'Effective engagement through intensive interaction', Learning Disability Practice, 15(9), 20-23.